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Archive for October, 2008

Prop. 11 gets GOP $$$, but is it a ‘power grab?’

While starting to compile my “This week in big-time campaign cash” roundup for tomorrow, I noticed a sudden burst of donations to support Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure, came in Saturday from far, far away:

  • $250,000 — Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • $75,000 — Fourth Quarter Properties XII LLC; Newnan, Ga.
  • $50,000 — Ashbritt Inc.; Pompano Beach, Fla.
  • $50,000 — Ashbritt CEO Randal R. Perkins; Parkland, Fla.
  • $50,000 — The GEO Group Inc. PAC; Boca Raton, Fla.
  • $25,000 — AutoNation Inc.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • $25,000 — lobbyist/attorney Ronald Book; Aventura, Fla.
  • $25,000 — Eastern Waste Systems Inc.; Pompano Beach, Fla.
  • So, who are these folks taking such an interest in California redistricting?

    Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler partner/founder Scott W. Rothstein has raised at least $500,000 for John McCain. He and his wife have given McCain $113,100; partner Stuart A. Rosenfeldt and his wife have given McCain $135,600; and partner Russell Adler and his wife have given McCain $80,000.

    Fourth Quarter Properties owner Stanley Thomas is a significant Republican donor who was involved in a controversial land deal with Republican Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue a few years ago.

    Ashbritt CEO Randal R. Perkins has raised at least $100,000 for John McCain, and his firm was in the middle of a flap over big companies getting small-business contracts for the Hurricane Katrina clean-up; he and his wife have given McCain $78,600.

    GEO Group founder, chairman and CEO George C. Zoley was a Bush Pioneer, having raised at least $100,000 for the president’s re-election in 2004.

    Autonation founder H. Wayne Huizenga bundled contributions for Mitt Romney but later gave $47,025 to John McCain this year.

    Ronald Book has given $35,000 to John McCain.

    Eastern Waste Systems owner Angelo Marzano is the only one on this list who gave more money to Democrats than to Republicans in this election cycle.

    So by and large, these donations are Republican money coming in from afar.

    And even so, I still don’t see how Proposition 11 is a “Republican power grab,” as some foes claim.

    First of all, it’s telling that Prop. 11’s supporters include not only nonpartisan groups well-versed in fair elections — such as California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters — but also prominent Democrats including former state Controller Steve Westly, former Gov. Gray Davis, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and a slew of Democratic state and local officials and candidates who’ve bucked their party’s opposition to the measure.

    But second, and perhaps more important, the way Proposition 11 would work seems to belie any party advantage.

    The measure would take responsibility for redistricting the Assembly, state Senate and Board of Equalization away from the Legislature and give it to a 14-person commission.

    Applicants to serve on this commission, or their immediate relatives, could not in the past decade have been a political candidate for state or federal office; been a lobbyist; or contributed $2,000 or more in any year to a political candidate. The nonpartisan State Auditor‘s office would create a panel of three auditors to narrow the applicant pool to 60 — 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, 20 of neither party — and then the two Democratic and two Republican leaders of the Legislature each would be able to strike two applicants from each of the three subsets, thus reducing the pool by a maximum of 24, from 60 to 36.

    From those remaining names, the State Auditor would then randomly draw the first eight commissioners, and those eight would pick the remaining six. But the panel would have to end up with five Democrats, five Republicans and four of neither party, and no redistricting plan could be approved without the consent of at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three of neither party.

    So how is that a Republican power grab? Sure, it takes redistricting authority away from a Legislature likely to have a Democratic majority for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t seem to put that authority in any particular party’s hands. And just because you have a majority doesn’t mean you get to fix the game.

    UPDATE @ 3:14 P.M.: The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert is now reporting that the Democratic-backed campaign against Proposition 11 has paid $30,000 for a spot on a Republican slate mailer accusing the redistricting measure of having a “hidden agenda to give liberal Democrats lifetime control of Congress” even after months of arguing it’s a Republican power grab. Hypocrisy, thy name is electoral politics.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
    Under: campaign finance, Elections, General | No Comments »

    Democrat Buchanan earns GOP Stockton mayor’s nod

    Joan Buchanan

    Joan Buchanan

    Abram Wilson

    Abram Wilson

    If we needed yet another sign that San Joaquin County has officially joined the Bay Area, then this is it: GOP Stockton Mayor Ed Chavez has endorsed Democratic Assembly District 15 candidate Joan Buchanan over Republican nominee and fellow mayor Abram Wilson of San Ramon.

    Chavez also recently endorsed Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton over Republican challenger and his Stockton neighbor Dean Andal.

    Granted, Chavez used to be a Democrat and critics say changed parties in order to win the mayor’s seat. But still, what is going on in the Valley?

    Read more for Buchanan’s press release sent this morning: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, Assembly, Contra Costa County, San Joaquin County politics | 7 Comments »

    Esquire magazine endorses Gerber over Tauscher

    Esquire magazine cover

    Esquire magazine cover

    I confess, when I first heard this news, I thought, “What does Esquire magazine have against Rep. Ellen Tauscher?”

    The magazine released its 2008 endorsement recommendations for California and it chose long-shot Republican challenger Nick Gerber over incumbent Democratic Rep. Tauscher. Here’s what the magazine said:

    Tauscher seems often to be caught between her Wall Street background and her party’s policy goals. It leads to friction in Washington and at home. Her opponent, successful investor Nicholas Gerber, blends the district’s liberal and entrepreneurial values.
    Esquire endorses: Gerber

    “Liberal and entrepreneurial” values?

    Okay, entrepreneurial is probably accurate. I have no reason to question Gerber’s professional background.

    But liberal? True, he’s  pro-choice but he is also a former Libertarian.

    Nick Gerber

    Nick Gerber

    I seriously doubt that liberals in this heavily Democratic district who chafe at some of Tauscher’s moderate positions will find Gerber an acceptable alternative. If you are curious about his positions, you can read them on the issues page of his website.

    I have no idea what information Esquire used to make its endorsement decision. Gerber says the magazine never contacted him.

    The magazine also named two Californians among its choices for top 10 worst members of Congress –Democrat reps. Pete Stark of Fremont and Joe Baca of San Bernardino.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, Congress | No Comments »

    Yard sign in Pleasant Hill raises eyebrows

    Judge for yourself: Does this sign leave you with the impression that the Pleasant Hill police department supports council candidates David Durant, Karen Mitchoff and John Hanacak?

    It did not. But it is darned tough to read the logo on this sign as you whiz by in your car.

    The Pleasant Hill Police Officers Association — the union — has endorsed these candidates over the other two challengers, Keith Hunt and Bruce Weissenberger. It was a particularly tough blow for Hunt, who is a former Pleasant Hill police officer.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

    What the “Yes on 8” campaign will and won’t say

    Standing there as the “Yes on 8” rally outside Oakland’s Foothill Missionary Baptist Church began to wind down today, I noticed a gentleman in the crowd approach an elderly woman who was holding a “Gay marriage = legal perversion” sign. I eavesdropped – hey, that’s my job – as he told her he agreed with her sign completely, but he urged her to ditch it and just use a “Yes on 8” sign instead because her homemade sign’s sentiment might turn off some voters.

    Is saying one thing but meaning another common in political campaigns of all kinds? Certainly. Is it disingenuous? You bet.

    It seems to be a similar situation with the “Yes on 8” campaign’s focus on what would be taught to California’s public schoolchildren should this measure fail.

    They note that in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004, parents can’t “opt out” from having their children hear about same-sex marriage in public school. That’s true; a federal judge there ruled so, and was affirmed by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

    “Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them,” the appeals court wrote.

    Proposition 8’s proponents and opponents are going back and forth now on whether California law will allow an opt-out. As I’ve noted before, California Education Code section 51240 says:

    (a) If any part of a school’s instruction in health conflicts with the religious training and beliefs of a parent or guardian of a pupil, the pupil, upon written request of the parent or guardian, shall be excused from the part of the instruction that conflicts with the religious training and beliefs.
    (b) For purposes of this section, “religious training and beliefs” includes personal moral convictions.

    Another section, 51932(b), might exempt “instruction or materials that discuss gender, sexual orientation, or family life and do not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions” from an opt-out, but that might only apply to the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act, a whole separate section of the code enacted in 2004. I’m not sure.

    Yet there’s a deeper and more important question here than intricacies of the Education Code – a question about what our public schools are supposed to be.

    “Public schools often walk a tightrope between the many competing constitutional demands made by parents, students, teachers, and the schools’ other constituents… The balance the school struck here does not offend the Free Exercise or Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution,” the appeals court wrote in the Massachusetts case. “We do not suggest that the school’s choice of books for young students has not deeply offended the plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs. If the school system has been insufficiently sensitive to such religious beliefs, the plaintiffs may seek recourse to the normal political processes for change in the town and state. They are not entitled to a federal judicial remedy under the U.S. Constitution.”

    In other words, if you don’t like the curriculum, go petition your school board or run for office but don’t come crying to the courts. And the bigger picture is that public schools are not supposed to be beholden to religious beliefs; they’re supposed to teach the law of the land, the world as it is.

    Right now, same-sex marriage is legal in California; the state Supreme Court in May ruled 4-3 that state law’s bans on the practice were unconstitutional, and an estimated 11,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot here since then.

    Same-sex marriage foes often refer to the California Supreme Court’s majority and the judges who decided the Massachusetts case as “activist judges,” but that’s usually just what a lawsuit’s losers call judges who ruled against them. For the record, the California Supreme Court’s opinion was written by Chief Justice Ronald George, an appointee of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson; he was joined by justices Joyce Kennard (appointed by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian), Kathryn Werdegar (Wilson, again) and Carlos Moreno (Democratic Gov. Gray Davis). And in the Massachusetts case, the trial judge was a Reagan appointee while one of the appellate judges was a George H.W. Bush appointee, one a Clinton appointee and one a George W. Bush appointee; their ruling was unanimous, and the U.S. Supreme Court this month refused to review it.

    Activists one and all? Hardly. They’re jurists interpreting and state and federal laws and constitutions, as their job descriptions entail.

    Hence Proposition 8, which would render the state Supreme Court’s ruling moot by amending the state constitution to explicitly revoke the right that the court recognized in May.

    Now, parents will always remain free to raise their children in whatever religious and moral tradition they choose; in fact, we can probably all agree that more parents should be more active in doing so rather than relying on schools, television, the streets to raise their kids.

    But public schools are public spaces in which all children are supposed to be educated in common, not in individual families’ religious and moral beliefs. Would Jewish parents who keep a kosher kitchen get a heads-up before their child’s class reads a story about eating cheeseburgers? Of course not.

    Public schools teach society’s laws and norms. If same-sex marriage remains the law of the land after Nov. 4, that’s what kids should learn; if it’s banned, that’s what kids should learn. It’ll be up to their parents, as it always has been, to fill in the blanks at home.

    What the “Yes on 8” campaign is really saying is that the right to same-sex marriage must be revoked now because if it’s not, their kids will learn in public school that their parents’ views don’t jibe with the law of the land. Perhaps that’s not a conversation they relish having with their kids.

    And to let any parents pull a child out of any discussion of other thoughts, lifestyles and beliefs creates a “boy in the bubble” scenario, a sort of societal sensory deprivation tank that defeats public schools’ very purpose.

    If California voters see fit to revoke a constitutional right recognized by our Supreme Court this Nov. 4, so be it – that’s the choice we face; I voice no opinion on that here. But don’t believe for a minute that we’re just doing it for public schoolchildren – as someone who has seen this battle and this campaign unfold, I just don’t think it’s so.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: Elections, same-sex marriage | 9 Comments »

    Don’t forget extra postage when you vote by mail

    Voters are still confused about how much postage to put on their vote-by-mail ballots.

    Here’s the low-down:

    If you live in Contra Costa County, it will cost 59 cents to mail your ballot.

    In Alameda County and Solano County, a single, first-class stamp will the do the trick.

    Why is it different in each county? Because each county designs its own ballot. That process includes the selection of the card stock used for the ballot, which contributes to the weight of the ballot. Other factors include the font size used for the words on the ballot, which will determine the size of the ballot. Some counties have more ballot measures than other counties.

    Neither the U.S. Post Office or Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir are particular about what kind of stamps you put on the ballot as long as it adds up to at least 59 cents.In fact, the post office loves it when you paste two first-class stamps on it; they make an extra quarter.

    “You would be amazed at how many people place two first-class stamps on their ballot and could care less about the extra postage,” Weir said.   “Then, again, it is amazing how many (not many) place exact postage, a 42-cent plus two eight-cent Eisenhower stamps and a one-cent kestral stamp!   Then, there are those philatilists who place 10 stamps that make up $0.59.”

    What happens if you don’t put enough postage of any variation on your ballot? Contra Costa County has a postage due account that will cover the cost, so it won’t get returned to the sender. But the ballot goes into a special pile for hand processing and it  will delay the delivery of your ballot to the election office.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Solano County politics | 8 Comments »

    Martinez beavers choose Obama for president

    Who needs political pundits, pollsters and political scientists’ computer forecasts when you have Martinez beavers.

    Check out this very clever YouTube video where one of the beavers living in Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez chooses Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: 2008 presidential election, Contra Costa County | No Comments »

    Computer models predict Obama victory

    This is interesting.

    Using computer forecast models, political scientists predict Sen. Barack Obama will win the popular vote presidency over Sen. John McCain on Nov. 4. Of course, the winner of the popular vote does not always win the presidency; it is the Electoral College that picks the winner.

    Here’s the full press release from the American Political Science Association:

    Forecast models developed by prominent political scientists, some made as much as nine months ago, predict a victory for Senator Barack Obama over Senator John McCain in the two-party contest for the popular vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

    Obama is predicted to win an average of 52% of the vote with an 80% probability that he will gain more than half the total two-party popular vote. Six out of the nine presidential election forecasts predict an Obama victory with popular vote totals ranging from 50.1% to 58.2%, while two predict a race too close to call and one predicts a narrow McCain victory.

    All of the predictions appear in an election-themed symposium in the October issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The forecasts are based on different combinations of statistical and historical data and differ in their complexity and how far in advance their predictions were made.

    The earliest forecast was made 294 days in advance while the latest was made 60 days before the election; however, all were made before the Wall Street financial crisis of the past few weeks.

    Together these forecasts use a range of approaches and indicators that are critical to understanding national electoral processes and the dynamics at work in U.S. presidential elections.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, 2008 presidential primary | No Comments »

    ACLU to hold anti-Prop. 8 rally in Walnut Creek

    The ACLU of Northern California is sponsoring an anti-Proposition 8 rally in Walnut Creek on Wednesday featuring local leaders including outgoing state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

    Prop. 8 would specify in the California Constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman and reverse a recent court decision that declared same-sex marriages legal. Voters on both sides of the ballot measure are coming out in force as the Nov. 4 election draws closer.

    Read more for the press release and details about the rally. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: 2008 November election, ballot measures | 3 Comments »

    Schwarzenegger video of the week

    This week, it’s “Arnold Schwarzenegger: Asterisk,” a two-parter:

    Schwarzenegger has noted steroids were legal at the time he used them; a spokesman has said he’d not have done so if he knew then what he knows now about their effects.

    Previous SVOTWs: October 14, October 7, September 30, September 23, September 16, September 9, September 2, August 26, August 19, August 12, August 5, July 29, July 22, July 8, July 1, June 24, June 17, June 10, June 3, May 27, May 20, May 13, May 6, April 29, April 22, April 15, April 8, April 1, March 25, March 18, March 11, March 4, February 26, February 19, February 12, February 5, January 29, January 22, January 15, January 8, January 1, December 25, December 18, December 11, December 4, November 27, November 20, November 13, November 6, October 30, October 23, October 16, October 9, October 2, September 25, September 18, September 11, September 4, August 28, August 21, August 7, July 31, July 24, July 17, July 10, July 3, June 26, June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
    Under: General | No Comments »